It’s become conventional wisdom that it’s highly important to stand up for yourself. But there are ways that can help you to achieve this.
Ways that will hurt both you and your relationship. It will prevent you from confronting the person most needing to be confronted—yourself.
However at least, assertiveness is always a good thing. Openly letting others know what you need and desire, demonstrates personal dignity, respect and self-confidence.
You need to say: “Look, I matter. I need you to take my point of view into account. Maybe you don’t think my position is as good as yours, but still I deserve to be taken seriously.”
People who are non-assertive generally don’t get their basic relational needs met. So they end up feeling misunderstood and unfulfilled.
Assertiveness, would seem to represent the golden mean. Even though, in general, it is, it’s also possible to be more combative in your assertiveness than you realize.
If you constantly proclaim the righteousness of your position without attending to the other’s needs and feelings, you’ll be perceived as aggressive. Regardless of what may be your conscious intention simply to stand up for yourself.
You may be employing a double standard: one biased in your favor. Totally convinced that your way of thinking is the only “right” one. After some time you lose the capacity to detach from it and honor the personal validity of the other’s viewpoint. So, your whole attitude toward them becomes dismissive. In reaction to feeling made wrong by them, you hasten to make them feel wrong in return.
So, finally doesn’t this all come under the heading: “Two wrongs don’t make a right”?
Once you’ve disqualified the other’s point of view, the opportunity for productive discussion will disappear.
Such failed assertiveness (true assertiveness always takes into account the thoughts of others) is not only disrespectful and almost certain to defeat your purpose.
Sometimes, standing up for yourself can be synonymous with defensiveness.
If you’re insecure to look within at your own possible weakness, you may feel compelled to stubbornly defend your viewpoint. Unwilling to explore its possible irrationality.
So long as the situation feels threatening, you’ll remain closed to what the other has to say to you. Unable to consider that this could be a time to take in their message rather than reflexively repudiate it.
So, if you recognize yourself in any of these descriptions, here are a few suggestions for you:
- Examine where the other person is coming from. What do you think their feelings and thoughts might be? Could you begin simply by asking them? Before you respond, take into account what at least you imagine might be going on with them?
- Question yourself, how much do you really need to justify, or explain, yourself? Might it be enough simply to say that since your backgrounds differ, it’s only natural that you wouldn’t have same opinion on this matter?
- Think of ways, how you can, non-attackingly, clarify your perspective to them. That’s neither self-righteous (spell out superiority of your position) nor overly defensive (strongly seeking to discredit their unfavorable impression of you).
- Assure yourself that, no one has the authority to invalidate you. That, unless you’ve been in denial about the facts of the situation, validity of your thoughts and feelings belongs to you alone.
Once you’ve learned how to thoughtfully stand up for yourself, you’ll find that you’ve greatly increased the odds that whatever you have to say will be better understood and given more weight. That may ever have been the case previously.